Peru’s elections of mayors and regional governors on Sunday were a strange sight.
In Lima, the capital, the second place finisher – 30 points behind the winner – was feted like a victor. Meanwhile the anti-mining regional governor of mineral-rich Cajamarca – with the highest total out of 25 races – had little to celebrate.
Mineral-rich Peru appears to be getting back to the game following news that Minmetals of China has submitted a bid for Glencore Xstrata’s Las Bambas copper project, one of the largest new copper projects in the world. Two other Chinese companies, Chinalco and Jiangxi Copper, as well as Newmont Mining of the US have also expressed interest in the mine.
Glencore is selling Las Bambas as a condition of its acquisition of Xstrata imposed by Chinese regulators. But Peru’s government has good reason to want a “first class” buyer, in the words of mining minister Jorge Merino, as it appears to be serious about re-igniting several large mining projects that have been stalled by protests or other issues.
One day Ollanta Humala, Peru’s president, is unnerving investors with a hankering for state-run enterprise, the next he is making it easier for miners to push through projects despite community opposition.
According to Reuters, Humala is on the verge of reneging on his key election pledge to give Andean indigenous communities the right to better consultation over mining projects near their homes.
Even during thunderstorms and floods, the Incas believed the ancient sun god, or Inti, was always shining. In today’s Peru bloody and protracted protests have stopped mining projects from going ahead – such as Newmont Mining’s $5bn Conga project.
They have also forced the country’s President, Ollanta Humala, to make cabinet changes. But the investment climate in Latin America’s fastest-growing economy seems to be, somehow, shining.
Mining has been the backbone of the recent growth of Bolivia and Peru. It also seems to be potential money spinner for their Andean neighbour, Ecuador. But despite certain ideological similarities, when it comes to mining, the approaches of their leaders seem to differ.
In Bolivia, after some protracted protests, the government of Evo Morales on Thursday signed a decree authorizing the seizure of a silver deposit operated by South American Silver, part of a Canadian mining group.